an outline of Ohio and an annotated version of the proposed 2023 abortion amendment appear along with the logo of the American Policy Roundtable

Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

A stealth right-wing Christian advocacy group is funding a misinformation campaign about Ohio’s proposed abortion amendment

The American Policy Roundtable has spent more than $210,000 advertising on Google and Meta

In the weeks leading up to Ohio’s Issue 1 vote on whether to add a reproductive health amendment to the state constitution, a conservative Christian group has spent over $210,000 on a digital campaign spreading false claims about the ballot measure. The group, the American Policy Roundtable, has distorted the text of Issue 1 to depict the measure as allowing abortions through nine months, legalizing gender-affirming care, and stripping parents of their voice in making health care decisions for their children.

  • Ahead of Ohio’s Issue 1 vote, a religious conservative group with ties to right-wing media is sowing confusion about the ballot measure

    • On November 7, Ohioans will vote on whether to add an amendment to the state constitution that would protect the right to abortion up to the point of viability and grant the express right to make one’s own reproductive health decisions. Currently, abortion in Ohio is restricted after 22 weeks, but that could soon change as the state Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of a six-week ban, without exceptions for rape or incest, passed by the Ohio legislature. [19th News, 10/16/23]
    • The conservative Christian legal advocacy group American Policy Roundtable has pushed misinformation about Issue 1 across different platforms as part of its “See the Language” campaign. The nonprofit touts itself as being “committed to reaching all people with the message of liberty anchored in Judeo-Christian principles.” [See the Language, accessed 10/25/23; American Policy Roundtable, accessed 10/24/23]
    • The American Policy Roundtable has several ties to right-wing media figures and anti-abortion media. Guests on the nonprofit’s podcast, The Public Square, have included anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson and evangelical radio host Eric Metaxas, while American Policy Roundtable’s President and CEO Dave Zanotti has appeared on Choose Life Radio and on Bob Frantz’s conservative radio program. American Policy Roundtable Vice President Rob Walgate has also guest hosted on Frantz’s program. [American Policy Roundtable, The Public Square, 10/12/23, 1/28/20; Podchaser, 10/13/22, 6/27/22]
    • Major funders of the American Policy Roundtable have also donated to other nefarious right-wing causes. Some donors of the group have also contributed to crisis pregnancy centers, the anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal organization currently challenging the FDA approval of a major abortion pill. [The Jay And Linda Sedwick Foundation via ProPublica, accessed 10/23/23; Scotford Foundation via ProPublica, accessed 10/23/23; The Brocker Foundation via ProPublica, accessed 10/23/23]
  • The American Policy Roundtable’s See the Language initiative has spread false claims about Issue 1 through multiple digital platforms and directly to voters’ mailboxes

    • According to the Meta Ad Library, the American Policy Roundtable has spent at least $90,000 on advertising through its See the Language accounts since September 28. Together, these 35 ads on Facebook and Instagram have accumulated at least 3.5 million impressions. [Meta Ad Library, accessed 10/26/23]
    • Since the beginning of October, the American Policy Roundtable has spent at least $120,000 on Google ads related to See the Language. Google promoted 28 ads from See the Language, which were collectively viewed at least 9.9 million times. [Google Ad Transparency Center, accessed 10/26/23]
    • In addition to advertising on Google, See the Language has its own YouTube channel pushing misinformation about Issue 1. At least three of the videos on the channel heavily feature the anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson and have amassed 1.4 million views. [YouTube, accessed 10/24/23]
    • The American Policy Roundtable also sent some Ohio voters physical mailers rife with false claims regarding Issue 1. A flier sent out to various Ohio residents shows an annotated version of the proposed abortion amendment that makes outrageous claims that certain language in Issue 1 could allow “gender selection abortions,” “harvesting body parts,” “chemical castration,” “trans surgeries on minors,” and “cloning.” [, 9/17/23; Reddit, 9/8/23; American Policy Roundtable, accessed 10/25/23]
  • No, Issue 1 will not strip parental rights

    • In a Meta ad, a YouTube short, and the paper flier circulated by the American Policy Roundtable, See the Language stirred fears that parents will lose their right to a say in their children’s health care decisions. The YouTube short asserted that “legislators, lawmakers, political philosophers, and parents find this language very troubling in what this would mean for parental rights and parental consent in the state of Ohio.” [American Policy Roundtable, accessed 10/25/23; Meta Ad Library, accessed 10/25/23; YouTube, 9/5/23]
    • According to the Ohio Capital Journal, “Attacks on parental rights do not appear in the amendment.” Constitutional law expert Tracy Thomas, who has “studied reproductive rights cases in Ohio and nationwide,” stated, “I don’t think Issue 1 would affect parent’s rights at all,” and noted that “parental rights have consistently been retained” over time. [Ohio Capital Journal, 10/16/23]
  • No, Issue 1 will not legalize “unlimited abortion”

    • The American Policy Roundtable falsely asserted that Issue 1 would open the door to “unlimited abortion through all nine months” in a recent YouTube video. See the Language’s mailer similarly claimed that the amendment would allow for abortion “throughout all nine months,” while another YouTube short decried that the amendment would “lock and enshrine abortion into the state constitution for any and every reason through all nine months of pregnancy.” [YouTube, 10/23/23, 9/5/23; American Policy Roundtable, accessed 10/25/23]
    • The ballot measure itself states that abortion “may be prohibited after fetal viability.” The Akron Beacon Journal also wrote it was a “gross misrepresentation of the amendment” to imply that the law allows “abortions up to the day before birth.” [Akron Beacon Journal, 10/13/23]
  • No, Issue 1 does not enshrine gender-affirming care in the Ohio Constitution

    • Messaging from the American Policy Roundtable baselessly suggested that Issue 1 could allow for “trans surgeries on minors.” In a video that has garnered more than 1 million views, See the Language’s YouTube channel asks the question, “Are gender-altering surgeries reproductive decisions?” The ballot measure states, “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on: contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.” [American Policy Roundtable, accessed 10/25/23; YouTube, 9/27/23]
    • The Associated Press cited legal experts claiming that “it’s a stretch to suggest that [reproductive decisions] also means gender-related health care.” The Ohio Capital Journal also wrote that the amendment “has nothing to do with” issues related to “puberty blockers” or gender-affirming care. [The Associated Press, 10/11/23; Ohio Capital Journal, 10/23/23]